In 2014, I set a goal of reading 32 books and reached it! Here are the books I read this year, starting with the most recent and working back to last January.
The one whose cover you can't see is "Life on Fire: A Step-By-Step Guide to Living Your Dreams" by Kim Dinan.
Since I've had the same goal of 32 for the past two years, this coming year I want to read at least 35 books—time to up my game. (Book recommendations are always welcome, you guys!)
To make my yearly reading round-up useful for fellow readers, I always like to pick my top five from the year. Here were my favorite five books that I read in 2014:
Top 5 books read in 2014
1. "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals" by Michael Pollan
I just finished this one in December, which probably influences it being at the top, but Pollan is such a gifted writer that his spot here is completely deserved. This is a book I'd heard of years ago, and knew it had gotten good reviews, but I always envisioned it as some long, dense read for whatever reason. Boy was I ever mistaken!
This entertaining masterpiece is split into three sections related to the current American diet (industrial corn, pastoral grass, and the forest) while resulting in four corresponding meals: fast food, grass-fed, industrial organic, and hunter-gatherer. Its contents are filled with must-know information, delivered in quality writing wrapped with a personal angle. Highly recommended!
2. "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" by Michael Pollan
Yup, same author as above, I read "In Defense of Food" back near the start of this year. It was exactly what I needed as I began my quest towards health. Rather than promote some new diet or fad, Pollan urges readers to simplify and turn back to whole foods—real food: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
As eye-opening as "The Omnivore's Dilemma," this book dissects the American diet—which is so ridiculously processed today—and takes a look at how it got there, plus what we can do about it. Pollan offers actionable tips to follow his seven-word slogan, such as sticking to the outer walls when grocery shopping, since processed not-real-food products are usually housed in the middle shelves.
3. "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character" by Richard P. Feynman
A good friend of mine had said this was a favorite of his probably back in high school. So it was always in the back of my mind (or my Goodreads to-read list) as a book I should read, but again, I also had this idea in my mind of what it would be like, which I think kept me from starting it sooner. (Side note: Does anyone else do this? There are classics I've never read, for example, but in my mind I've created a vision of what they'll be like, which has turned me off from reading said book. Crazy!)
Mr. Feynman is a Nobel Prize winner in physics who worked on the atomic bomb and tossed ideas around with Einstein and Bohr. He was a bright, curious man, who had acquired quite the collection of adventures during his lifetime. I laughed a lot while reading, and enjoyed Feynman's brilliance in the tales, which are told by the clever man himself in plain, casual English. I remember this book being a faster read, and highly enjoyable.
4. "The Girl You Left Behind" by Jojo Moyes
I was a bit wary of picking up a best seller, but was pleasantly surprised. The title refers to a painting, which is the center of the book— connecting two stories together: one that takes place in France during WWI, and the other during present day.
Perhaps it's because I read this between a string of non-fiction, but I loved being completely transported to the past in the first half of the book. And while the second story had many non-realistic coincidences, it for some reason didn't bother me, as it felt like I'd gotten a two for one deal—getting lost into two different stories with just one book.
5. "Radical" by Michelle Rhee
I read this book much earlier in the year, so details escape me now, but I do remember that it was motivating and inspiring to see the difference Michelle Rhee has made in our country's education system. I love to see people's stories from the beginning, before they had a reputation. How did one get to where they are today? Everyone started somewhere.
Seeing the problems with our education system close-up definitely reignited my desire to teach; I surely browsed Teach-for-America-type programs after reading, but I'm pursuing other routes at the moment.
There were some five- and four-star ratings in that line-up, but there were several other books I gave four stars to this year. I'll list them below as honorable mentions.
- "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell
- "Dress Your Family in Courderoy and Denim" by David Sedaris
- "A Clash of Kings" by George R. R. Martin
- "The Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood
- "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation" by Michael Pollan
- "Food Over Medicine" by Pamela A. Popper and Glen Merzer
- "One Summer" by Bill Bryson
Did you make a reading goal this past year, or will you make one for 2015? Have you read anything awesome lately that you recommend?